How a freshman from Madison revitalized Mississippi State men’s basketball.

Mississippi State men’s basketball has reached the SEC Tournament semi-finals for the first time since 2010 after a dominant victory over the top-seeded Tennessee Volunteers on Friday. Bulldog fans have freshman Josh Hubbard from Madison to thank.

Hubbard, a Madison-Ridgeland Academy graduate, is not just an ordinary first-year player. He arrived at MSU as the all-time career scoring leader in Mississippi high school basketball and the first freshman to win the Howell Trophy, awarded to Mississippi’s best men’s college basketball player.

“I’m a Mississippi guy born and raised,” Hubbard said after winning the award. “It definitely means a lot. Coach Jans has pushed me to my limits and holds a special place in my heart as a coach and a person.”

Although MSU’s overall record has remained the same in head coach Chris Jans’s second season, Hubbard has brought a new dimension to the team.

Last season, the Bulldogs ranked last in the conference in three-point percentage at 26% and second to last in scoring with 65.7 points per game. After the 2023-24 season, it was clear MSU needed shooters, and they now have the best in the state.

In his first season, Hubbard has led the team in scoring with 17.1 points per game and shoots 37% from behind the arc. He has scored in double figures in 28 of 33 games this season, attempting 285 three-pointers and making 104. For comparison, all other Bulldogs have recorded 138 three-point makes combined in 453 attempts, with a 30% conversion rate.

This season, Hubbard’s performance has elevated the team to eighth place in the SEC in scoring with 75 points per game and tenth in three-point percentage at roughly 33%.

Before defeating Tennessee for the second time this season, Hubbard and Mississippi State overcame LSU in a critical March Madness game on Thursday. A win kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, while a loss would have ended their postseason dreams.

Hubbard delivered when it mattered, scoring 24 points in a 70-60 victory over LSU.

“It was just another game,” Hubbard said after the crucial win. “All our guys put confidence in each other. We’re all positive, you know. We were prepared for the game… I was pretty calm and confident in what to do.”

On Friday, the Madison native led the Bulldogs in scoring again with 18 points against the fifth-ranked Tennessee. Mississippi State never trailed during the contest.

“I’m not in the mood to reminisce at this point of the season, but it was certainly a big win for us considering the platform, considering it’s the end of the year, considering what we’re trying to play for,” Jans said. “I really felt our only chance [to beat them again] was to hit ‘em in the mouth. We had to come out and attack them and, you know, get our toughness into the game to see if we could rattle them a little bit. Our plan was super aggressive offensively and defensively.”

Next for Mississippi State is a matchup with the fourth-seeded Auburn Tigers, scheduled for 12 p.m. on Saturday, airing on ESPN.